Richt was right: UGA is ‘knocking on the door’ of greatness

Mark Richt: Two games to go, two thumbs up? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Noted critic Mark Richt gave Georgia's clinching of the SEC East two thumbs up. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Mark Richt called this shot. Speaking in Tampa on the first day of 2012, he said of his Georgia Bulldogs: ““We’re going to be knocking on the door of the greatest success you can have in college football, and if you knock long enough, you’ll eventually break through.”

Some folks tittered, noting that Georgia had just lost the SEC championship game by 32 points. A day later, when the Bulldogs (and Richt, too) messed up every which way in blowing the Outback Bowl to Michigan State, the tee-hees became hardy-har-hars. A team that had gone 0-4 against ranked opponents would go on to achieve “the greatest success you can have in college football”? Dream on, brother.

Eleven months later, the dreamer awakes and smells a heady blend of coffee. If the Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech on Saturday, they will stand on the cusp of the BCS title game. Granted, they’ll face a massive impediment in Alabama (presuming it beats Auburn, which it will), but still: For the first time since Richt took up residence in Athens, his team has a clear path to the national championship. Which only lends greater resonance to the second half of that January pronouncement: “If you knock long enough, you’ll eventually break through.”

In 2002, when the Bulldogs went 13-1 and took the school’s first SEC title in two decades in Year 2 under Richt, a BCS title seemed this reborn program’s manifest destiny. But LSU beat Georgia twice in 2003, and Tennessee upset the Bulldogs in Athens the next year, and Georgia’s 2005 SEC champs had two losses in a year when being undefeated wouldn’t have been enough, what with USC and Texas, the preseason Nos. 1 and 2, staying unbeaten until they met in the Rose Bowl.

Manifest destiny hadn’t yet manifested itself, and after a decade on the job it wasn’t clear that Richt would take a team beyond an SEC championship. Which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but when five different SEC schools were taking BCS titles while Georgia was stuck on 1980, it was possible to ask if Richt’s moment had passed without ever arriving.

Twice his teams had come close. The once-beaten 2002 Bulldogs finished third in the BCS standings, behind unbeatens Miami and Ohio State. In 2007 Georgia stood fourth in the penultimate BCS rankings and saw No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia lose … but somehow the Bulldogs dropped to fifth. The voters’ apparent rationale: A team that didn’t win its conference shouldn’t be allowed to play for the national title. (Not that it stopped Alabama last season.)

The 2008 Bulldogs of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno and A.J. Green were ranked No. 1 in preseason but got little right. A slew of summer arrests left Georgia reeling before the team held its first practice, and the bubble burst on an awful night in Sanford Stadium that saw Alabama lead 31-0 at the half. That team would lose only three games, but they were epic failures: The drubbing by Alabama, the 49-10 flop against national-champ-to-be Florida and Richt’s only loss to Georgia Tech, a 45-42 game the Bulldogs led 28-12 at halftime.

The next two years were a clear retreat. Georgia went 8-5 , then 6-7. The program that once could beat anyone anywhere closed 2010 by losing to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl on a day the Bulldogs couldn’t manage a touchdown. The 2011 season began with losses to Boise State and South Carolina, and there was no guarantee Richt would be coaching this team in 2012. But Georgia started winning and, benefiting from a soft schedule, claimed the SEC East. Then it lost emphatically to LSU and egregiously to Michigan State, and it was hard to know what to think. Were the Bulldogs back? Or had they just gotten lucky?

Even this season, there were times we wondered. The 35-7 loss at South Carolina was one of the worst performances by any Richt team, and the halting victory at Kentucky wasn’t much better. But then Georgia went to Jacksonville and upset its nemesis, and everything changed. For the first time since 2007, this coach and this program had won a game against an opponent of consequence, and today the Bulldogs are 10-1, ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings with a date against No. 2 surely upcoming.

Twelve years on the job, Richt finally has Georgia in position to play for a national championship. All it has to do is win these next two games. Asked Wednesday on the SEC conference call how it felt not to need any outside assistance, Richt ducked the question: “I’m not going to make a comment on it. I’m focused on trying to beat Georgia Tech.”

It’s possible Georgia could lose to Tech, and the Bulldogs will be an underdog against Alabama. But even if this season doesn’t end with the Bulldogs hoisting the crystal trophy, the dreamer has already been proved a prophet. His team is indeed knocking on a door that has been closed to Georgia for three decades. His team is three games from glory.




By Mark Bradley

441 comments Add your comment

Yawn

November 21st, 2012
2:14 pm

Yawn. GT 43 Mutts 38

Chris S

November 21st, 2012
2:15 pm

“The voters’ apparent rationale: A team that didn’t win its conference shouldn’t be allowed to play for the national title. (Not that it stopped Alabama last season.)”

The rationale was actually that a team that didn’t play in its conference championship shouldn’t be able to play for title. The not-winning-your-conference objection had been blown up some time earlier.

David C

November 21st, 2012
2:15 pm

Should you wait till after SEC Championship Game before having this opinion? If they get blown out like they did in last Year SEC Championship Game you might have a different opinion..

Ed

November 21st, 2012
2:17 pm

Bulldogs for Muschamp Lifetime Contract

November 21st, 2012
2:17 pm

Georgia 49
Tech 28

This game will be won in the first half and Georgia will maintain that lead throughout.

tech mess

November 21st, 2012
2:19 pm

yea right –yawn. and yea we matter now–what about tech?

Spurrier was right...

November 21st, 2012
2:19 pm

… 12 years at one school is about the right time to leave – here’s hoping Richt was listening, win or lose…

Steve

November 21st, 2012
2:19 pm

Actually, I think the first half will be close like the Ole Miss and Southern game and then UGA will take care of business. Probably 24-20 at the half with a final of 45-30. It’s said this is not a rivalry anymore on the UGA side. When you beat someone annually, it gets old. Maybe Tech and UGA should start playing like every four years or something.

polecat

November 21st, 2012
2:20 pm

At this moment, David, UGA is indeed knocking on the door of greatness. The door may get slammed in their face on Saturday, or it might be slammed the following Saturday, but the door is still there. There are only 3 teams right now that can say “if we take care of business, we are playing on Jan 7.”

Steve

November 21st, 2012
2:20 pm

*sad, not said.

GTT

November 21st, 2012
2:20 pm

Dawg Fud

November 21st, 2012
2:21 pm

Ed

November 21st, 2012
2:23 pm

Maybe the rationale in ‘07 was “a two-loss team that didn’t win its conference should not be allowed to play for the title,” because Oklahoma got to play for it in ‘03 despite getting killed in the conference title game. And last year’s gem: a team that finished second in its DIVISION (not lost a tiebreaker, but actually came in 2nd), did not play for its conference title, and lost at home to the undefeated winner of its conference got to play for the NC.

Back to ‘07: under BCS logic, a team (LSU) that finished the regular season 10-2 (6-2 conf.) was deemed worthy to play for it all, while another team (UGA) that finished the regular season 10-2 (6-2 conf.) was deemed unworthy because it lost a division tie-breaker. Forget that at the time, the Dawgs were probably playing better than anyone in the country.

Makes perfect sense only in the BCS world.

Mark Bradley

November 21st, 2012
2:23 pm

So had the not-playing-in-a-conference-championship-game objection. Nebraska 2001.

Dawg Fud

November 21st, 2012
2:23 pm

Gotta respect Tech. They are certainly capable of kicking our butts. We need to play with intensity and discipline.

Under The Bleachers

November 21st, 2012
2:23 pm

Mark,

Just do not see it. One hit wonders is more like it. The number of players(especially on defense) that will leave, the return to power by Florida, the continuing effort by Spurrier and USC, this will be a blip on the screen. One still has to look at what UGA does against good teams. History shows some failures.

Mark Richt is like any coach, his job is to sell his program and tell the boosters how good they are going to be, this after three disappointing seasons and 6 below seasons in a row.

Spin Spin, in the end it comes down to doing it more than once in every 5 to 6 to 8 years.

Steve

November 21st, 2012
2:24 pm

T-Minus 2 minutes until GTBob arrives to start commenting on other people’s comments and then saying how bad and overrated UGA and the SEC are. This is the highlight of his day everyday.

Dawg Fud

November 21st, 2012
2:29 pm

Richt & Murray have not performed very well in the big games (W’s & L’s). Buck was on 680 trashing the UGA people who criticize Murray.

Though I agree with the aformentioned – facts don’t lie – Richt & Murray have an opportunity to change that.

However, let’s not underestimate the role that CTG and the defense has played. Richt has his best seasons when he has a top-ranked defense. That can be said for most programs but it is especially true for Richt.

Highlights

November 21st, 2012
2:30 pm

all you can ask is to be put int the position to win it all…we have done that.

Highlights

November 21st, 2012
2:31 pm

WE ARE THE TEAM OF DESTINY.

Old Dog Class of 80

November 21st, 2012
2:32 pm

The Dawgs are knocking on the doors of luckiness!

Patched Tire On I-95 in Jacksonville

November 21st, 2012
2:32 pm

This article should have been written after we beat Alabama not before the Tech game

If we lose to bama we are in the same place we have been since 2005 and that is….

“Knocking on the door to meaningless inept football”

Tech Sucks

November 21st, 2012
2:34 pm

Lol Yawn. Keep dreaming nerd. We are a little better than MTSU. How many TDs did you lose to them by? 3? If we don’t have 45 points at halftime ill be stunned.

Old Dog Class of 80

November 21st, 2012
2:34 pm

We will be “knocking on the door to greatness” AFTER we beat Alabama, not before.

GTT

November 21st, 2012
2:35 pm

To quote Erk at Ga. Southern, “Just one more time!” If they keep that type of focus on the next task at hand. It could happen.

Old Dog Class of 80

November 21st, 2012
2:35 pm

Or maybe after Alabama, we will be knocking on the door of mediocrity.

polecat

November 21st, 2012
2:36 pm

I don’t see any spin here. I will take playing for SEC championship 5 out of 11 years every time. Sure, what fan wouldn’t to be champions every year? But any fan that does is either delusional or just trolling message boards.

Discount DoubleDawg

November 21st, 2012
2:36 pm

What is tech knocking on the door of?

Ron Roberts

November 21st, 2012
2:39 pm

Under The Bleachers …

2013 will likely not be a “glory year” after the departures on defense, and with the POTENTIAL (I’m still not convinced he’d go) for Murray to bolt, too.

That being said, the schedule still has an 8-4 feel to it, worst-case. That’s IF Murray goes pro. If he stays, 10-2 is more apt.

Dawg

November 21st, 2012
2:40 pm

Hell yea Mark! I concur!!

Dawg

November 21st, 2012
2:40 pm

Tech is knocking on the door of the bathroom stall…

Phelps

November 21st, 2012
2:46 pm

Just 3 more wins Dawgs and we’re national champions! Push 3 more times!

GT

November 21st, 2012
2:46 pm

Tech game will be interesting. Tech got an unexpected new season last week and yet to have played the game they have in them. I can hear in Richt voice he is not worried about these guys, he is either real good or he is drinking the Kool-Aid again, time will tell.

toga

November 21st, 2012
2:47 pm

Greatness Ha! Just don’t embarass the SEC in the Capital One Bowl.

Roll Tide!

Tech Sucks

November 21st, 2012
2:48 pm

Tech knocking on the door of losing 11 of 12 to UGA. That has to sting worse than losing at World of Warcraft.

Phelps

November 21st, 2012
2:49 pm

If the tables were flipped and Tech was in position for a national title (will never happen again) they would be so big headed you wouldn’t be able to fit them a baseball cap. You know it and they know it. Now that it’s UGA, they want to down us. But they’re hating. Simple as that.

Phelps

November 21st, 2012
2:50 pm

I think UGA beats Alabama. UGA is the hungrier team and they want it more.

Highlights

November 21st, 2012
2:52 pm

Dawgs are hungry. They skipped lunch and dinner.

BullDawgRick

November 21st, 2012
2:52 pm

Dawgs “git er done” by 3 TD’s

Stay healthy UGA players…. Got bigger fish to fry Dec 1st!!

GeoffDawg

November 21st, 2012
2:55 pm

Um, Chris S, Bama didn’t play for the conference title last year either.

@Steve

November 21st, 2012
2:58 pm

Actually, It’s sad that you said what you said. Of course, you probably would have sad what you sad anyway.

Phelps

November 21st, 2012
3:01 pm

People think Alabama is going to walk all over UGA but that will not be the case. Alabama’s defense is very weak against the passing game and that’s what Georgia truly does best. Murray is #1 in the nation in passer efficiency and has thrown for the most touchdowns in UGA history for a QB and is closing in on the SEC All-Time record for touchdowns in a career. Murray will be the best QB in SEC history when he leaves IF he can beat Bama next week and win UGA a national title.

Discount DoubleDawg

November 21st, 2012
3:01 pm

I just love the opportunity we have right now… As a realistic Dawg fan who understands there are so many more important things in life other than football, I am happy with Richt and our program. If Richt averages 10 wins (with the occasional great -13 win- and poor -6 win season) I am more than ok with that. The obsessed bama fan on the other hand ‘would not tolerate’ such things. Give me a break. I love that we have the opportunity to make it to the national championship game. If we make it, great! If not, we will live to fight another day.

Phelps

November 21st, 2012
3:03 pm

I think Murray also can stake his claim to be UGA’s best QB ever. I think he already is but that’s just me. But if he can bring UGA a national title for the first time in 31 years then what more could he do?

polecat

November 21st, 2012
3:03 pm

Amen DoubleDawg!

JB

November 21st, 2012
3:05 pm

THE only thing that bothers me is Richt is he is in a dry spell the last 3-4 years in BIG games. All of them. The talent alone on this team…or most Dawg teams overcome some weak coaching. AND he has a clear path to shut those critics up Dec 1st. Bama is beatable. They are very good….but not great. They have some weaknesses…..But are VERY WELL coached. Would love to see…..Even if we don’t get to the big game, this has been a real good year by Richt standards.

Patched Tire On I-95 in Jacksonville

November 21st, 2012
3:05 pm

Discount

Why dont UGA just drop to FCS then with that attitude

Seriously if we arent wanting to raise the crystal ball then we just need to get out of FBS or at least leave the SEC

bham dawg

November 21st, 2012
3:07 pm

UGA has been knocking on the door of greatness for a long time. With the high school talent in this state the right coach can win mulitple championships in athens. I have had my doubts on if Richt could become that coach but he has put himself in position to start something great that is going to be hard to stop. It’s time to step up and kick the door down or else we slip right back into mediocrity. It’s up to you Richt the jury is still out.

Tony31005

November 21st, 2012
3:07 pm

Richt is only as good as his coaches. As long as he maintains good coaches at every level, UGA will continue to be good. IMO he’s done a good job of that so far. Keep up the good work MR. Good luck and happy recruiting down the line.

Old Dog Class of 80

November 21st, 2012
3:08 pm

“I don’t see any spin here. I will take playing for SEC championship 5 out of 11 years every time.”

And only winning two. None in the last seven years. And never winning a National Chanpionship. Sounds like mediocrity to me. If we didn’t pay our Coach $3 million per year, I might be satisfied with that.